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Healthy diet unaffordable for 220,000 children in Scotland

7th September 2018

New analysis “Affordability of the Eatwell Guide” from independent think tank The Food Foundation finds that around 3.7 million children in the UK are part of families who earn less than £15,860 and would have to spend 42% of their after-housing income on food to meet the costs of the Government’s nutrition guidelines, making a healthy diet most likely unaffordable. In Scotland, families earning less than £15,860 would have to spend 39% of their after-housing income on food to afford the Eatwell Guide, affecting 220,000 children.

Comparing the estimated cost of the PHE Eatwell Guide (PHE’s official guidance on what constitutes a healthy diet) to household income in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales shows that the poorest half of households would need to spend nearly 30% of their after-housing income on food to eat the Government’s recommended diet, compared with 12% for the richest half of households.

This analysis comes as children in Scotland are in the early weeks of returning to school after summer break amid growing concerns over holiday hunger. The availability of free school meals during term-time are a relief for parents who struggled to feed their children over the holidays.The unaffordability of a healthy diet for low-income households is highlighted by higher rates of childhood obesity in deprived areas of the country. Widening inequality is leading to higher rates of childhood obesity in deprived areas of Scotland with 16% of children aged 2 to 15 being obese compared to 12% of children in the richest areas.

The Food Foundation’s food affordability research comes as the Children’s Future Food Inquiry is gathering evidence from those who have witnessed or experienced children’s food insecurity in the UK. With an estimated 3.7 million children in the UK living in households that likely cannot afford a healthy diet and record levels of childhood obesity, the parliamentary inquiry is joining calls for a national measurement for food insecurity and next year will present recommendations to policy makers in all regions of the UK including specific recommendations for Scotland for understanding and tackling children’s food insecurity.

Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, said:
“Food is a human rights issue. Children have the right to be free from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition. Experiencing food insecurity as a child impacts negatively on physical health, mental health, and developmental outcomes and is a violation of their rights.

“These figures from the Food Foundation illustrate the impossible task facing many Scottish families. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is already concerned that Scotland does not have accurate data on the scale of food insecurity, and we are seeing the effects of this right now across Scotland as we know children are going hungry, yet we still do not know the full extent of the problem.

“Child poverty needs to be recognised as a significant children’s rights issue in Scotland and a sustained, systematic and human rights based approach at both national and local levels is needed to tackle and eradicate it.”